Directed by Carl Upsdell
Starring Eli Gabay, Brian Drummond, Alex Zahara, Trevor Devall
Created by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee
The Inhumans, a lesser-known yet intriguing aspect of Marvel Comics, breaks out into the video market with the motion comic of Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s award-winning miniseries. Does award-winning comic writing still translate into motion?
The Inhumans are a secretive culture of ancient genetically-modified people who have avoided contact with the rest of mankind for their entire existence. That avoidance is tested as their home city of Attilan, located on the recently-resurfaced island of Atlantis, has become a target for greedy politicians and warmongers wanting access to the Inhumans’ advanced technology. The Inhumans, lead by their King Black Bolt whose voice destroys mountains, must defend against an invading force and an unknown threat from within.
This motion comic collects the 1998-1999 12-issue miniseries by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee, winning the pair an Eisner Award for best new series. (Eisners are basically the Academy Awards for comics) It splits focus between Black Bolt and his royal family, a young generation of Inhumans just getting their powers, the submissive Neanderthal-like Alpha Primitive race, and the humans outside.
The Inhumans are a lesser-known franchise in the Marvel universe, probably better known for their occasional run ins with the Fantastic Four. While there are small cameos by a couple of more notable Marvel characters, this is entirely their show. It does a good job catching the viewer up with the characters and the society, even the disturbing prejudice that runs through the Inhumans.
The Inhumans in the spotlight are well developed as characters, seeing their pros and cons and a wide range of emotions from frustration to elation and more. The human antagonists don’t fare as well, with shallow personalities and generic motivations.
As with every Marvel motion comic DVD/Blu-Ray release I’ve watched, this one also divides each part – all 12 of them – into its own short episodes, annoyingly playing credits between each one. With these interruptions every 10 minutes, it’s hard to stay engaged. Worse yet, the theme music used each time – an overly serious and somber tune that takes you out of the mood to watch the story.
Making the engagement matter worse is the heavy-handed third-person narration following the entire story. The dull, existentialist-wannabe narrator continually pulls you away from the actions on screen, making this work feel less like an event unfolding onscreen and more like the boring dribble you find yourself drifting off to in English class.
Perhaps because the narration and constant interruptions seem to draw this out, but the overall film feels far too long than it needs to be. Several parts in the middle could have been further compressed. What takes moments to read on a page takes considerably longer to watch play out, particularly with the aforementioned bloated narration.
With all of these hurdles, if you manage to stick with it, you do find yourself invested in the climatic payoff, only to be hampered by a weak resolution that leaves the audience unfulfilled.
I enjoy the Inhuman characters, their culture, and their culture clash with humanity. This conflict does a good job exploring all of that. The execution though, particularly in this motion comic form, is lacking.
The Video and Audio
The art drops quality from paper to motion video, not nearly as clean as Jae Lee’s original work. This is painfully obvious when you look at the cover adorned in art from the books. The animation itself is often jerky, laughably so at times.
The audio is workable. Some of the voices start sounding alike, and you start to not notice who is talking. (Also a fault of the poor animation) It doesn’t help that several of the voice cast perform multiple characters.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This one disc set in a flimsy cardboard case comes with a half-hour documentary on the making of the Inhumans comic mini-series that became this motion comic. The documentary features heavily on writer Paul Jenkins coming into the Inhumans franchise he wasn’t familiar with and working with artist Jae Lee. Also interviewed is Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada – who helped create the “Marvel Knights” label of outside creatives breathing new life into characters falling to the wayside, which included the Inhumans.
It’s usually enlightening to hear about the creative process of renowned comics, and this doc measures up. It’s honestly a more entertaining and easier watch than the motion comic itself.
With that said, the bonuses are otherwise slim pickings. Given the relative obscurity of the Inhumans over some of Marvel’s other properties, this really could have benefitted from character bios or a history recap.
Overall (Not an Average)
I read this story some number of years ago in the trade book. While I don’t remember too much from then, I know I didn’t feel like this work was as long and dull as this viewing. It’s the weakness of motion comics. Instead of properly adapting a story into a new medium in a way that better fits it, motion comics often just scan the comic and animate a character here and there. Things that work fine in print, like the narration, don’t play as well in video and audio.
I also understand that these parts, episodes, issues, or whatever were originally made to be released one at a time online, but on home video, they should be compiled for a single viewing experience without interruptions by the credits every 10 minutes. Think of trade collections versus single issues.
Until Marvel learns to adapt these comics for a video medium properly and change the storytelling aspects that don’t translate well from print to video, these home releases of Marvel’s motion comics suffer a steep handicap.
The Film 5/10
The Video and Audio 4/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10